MVEC Vodcast series - COVID-19 vaccines

As 2020 draws to a close there is optimism that a safe and effective vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) will soon be approved to control the pandemic. With over 200 vaccine candidates currently in various stages of clinical trials across the globe, Australia has signed advance purchase agreements with 4 different vaccines.

In our 3-part vodcast series, COVID-19 vaccines, Dr Daryl Cheng and Dr Daniela Say discuss how it is possible to develop a vaccine in such a compressed timeline, the various vaccine platforms being utilised in clinical trials and their individual advantages and disadvantages, as well as the different priority groups to be offered immunisation. Daryl and Daniela touch on the preliminary results from clinical trials and what they show us in terms of vaccine safety and effectiveness, as well as discuss the ongoing safety monitoring that will occur even once a vaccine has been approved for use.

You can view the vodcasts via the link below:

MVEC: Vaccine vodcasts


Final episode of COVID19 Road to a vaccine: Professor Walter Orenstein

In the final episode of this podcast series our host, Associate Professor Nigel Crawford, speaks with Professor Walter Orenstein. Dr Orenstein is a Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology, Global Health and Paediatrics at Emory University; Associate Director of the Emory Vaccine Center and the Director of Emory Vaccine Policy and Development. An expert in vaccinology, Dr Orenstein has worked at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Director of the United States Immunisation Program and is a current member of several WHO groups. Further to this he is the co-editor of the vaccine textbook, Plotkin’s Vaccines, 7th edition. In this episode they discuss:

  • Lessons that can be learnt from Plotkin’s Vaccines in the setting of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and development of vaccines
  • Recent press releases showing promising early results from two mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidates developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna
  • The critical role of ongoing monitoring for safety and effectiveness of vaccines once they are in use
  • The likely highest priority groups when vaccines do become available
  • The role of children in SARS-CoV-2 transmission and whether or not they need to be vaccinated
  • The importance of a correlate of protection in SARS-CoV-2 vaccines
  • The need to monitor for vaccine associated enhanced disease (VAED)
  • The importance of immunisation providers supporting reports of adverse events following immunisation (AEFI)
  • The importance of communication in supporting vaccine acceptance and uptake
  • Key next steps on the road to a COVID-19 vaccine: a better understanding of how many doses are required and when, a prioritisation process so the vaccines can be used most effectively (with a clear allocation system); and communicating to the public that social distancing and wearing a mask will be ongoing for some time as a level of normality won’t be reached immediately, even with the exciting new efficacious COVID-19 vaccines


You can listen to the episode here:

Spreaker - Apple - Spotify

The Conversation: Moderna’s COVID vaccine reports 95% efficacy

The American biotech company Moderna has released early data from phase III clinical trials, announcing that its COVID-19 vaccine has an efficacy level of 94.5%.

Like Pfizer's vaccine, the Moderna vaccine is also an mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine, however will be easier to distribute as its temperature requirements are 4℃ for 30 days (rather than -70℃ as in the case of the Pfizer vaccine); and for storage requirements beyond 30 days it needs to be kept at -20℃.

The stage III trial involved 30,000 participants, out of those 95 people developed COVID-19 in the week after the final vaccination, with 90 of those being in the placebo group and only 5 in the group who received the COVID vaccine.

It is unknown how long protection from this vaccine lasts and how effective it is in the elderly, pregnant women or those with a chronic illness; however, in results Moderna published in September the vaccine produced a similar amount of antibodies in adults over 70 as adults under 70 years of age. It did however induce fewer T cells in people aged over 71, so at this stage it is not know whether this will result in lower protection or shorter lasting immunity in the elderly.

Read more via the link below:

COVID19 Road to a vaccine episode 17: How the COVID-19 pandemic is being managed in British Columbia, Canada, with Dr Bonnie Henry

In episode 17 of our COVID19 Road to a vaccine series, our host, Associate Professor Nigel Crawford, speaks to Dr Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer (PHO) for the Province of BC in Canada. As the PHO Bonnie is leading the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bonnie has been in this role since the beginning of 2018 and prior to this was the deputy PHO for three years. She specialises in public health and preventative medicine, and has a background working with the World Health Organisation and UNICEF polio eradication program in Pakistan and with the WHO during the Ebola outbreak in Uganda. She has experience leading responses to SARS, the H1N1 pandemic and the overdose emergency in BC. Bonnie is an associate professor at the University of British Columbia, Faculty of Medicine and is a member of the Canadian National Advisory Committee on Immunisation. She and Nigel discuss the following:

  • Bonnie’s current role leading BC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • What she learnt from the 2003 SARS outbreak and how this experience and knowledge can be applied to the current pandemic such as the importance of contact tracing, managing outbreaks and the importance of communicating with the public
  • The role COVID-19 vaccines will play in Canada and challenges that will need to be faced such as logistics, ensuring adequate safety profiles, determining priority groups to be immunised first and protecting indigenous communities
  • The critical importance of monitoring for adverse events following immunisation


You can listen to the episode here:

Spreaker - Apple - Spotify 

BBC: Covid vaccine - First 'milestone' vaccine offers 90% protection

Vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech have announced preliminary data shows their COVID-19 vaccine is demonstrating 90% effectiveness. The vaccine has been tested on over 43,000 people in six countries (USA, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Turkey). They are planning to apply for emergency approval so the vaccine can be in use by the end of November.

Requiring two doses three weeks apart, the vaccine has been developed using an mRNA platform. Scientists take part of the virus’s genetic code and coat it in a lipid so that it can enter the body’s cells resulting in the production of the coronavirus spike protein, prompting the immune system to produce antibodies and T-cells to kill the infected cells. If the person who has been immunised encounters the virus, the antibodies and T-cells are then activated to fight the virus.

It is not known how effective the vaccine will be in elderly people as yet or how long immunity will last. This vaccine is not without manufacturing and logistical challenges, as mRNA vaccines need to be stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius. To date, no major safety issues have been identified.

Read more about this via the link below:

BBC: Covid vaccine: First 'milestone' vaccine offers 90% protection